“I don’t do ill.” I don’t want to waste time; life is simply too full.
I know what you’re thinking, and no, gulping down green juices in swanky lycra leggings seven days a week does not, unfortunately save a person from being ill; it’s a part of life. As we’re in the thick of winter and the lurgy seems to be leaping from one person to another like the plagues in Egypt, I thought I’d talk about the importance of rest and recovery. I, too, have been victim to a virus in past weeks, and not one of those “man up and get on with it” viruses either, but one of those “sleep it out” viruses. Given that listening to my body isn’t exactly my forte, the recovery time for this virus was sheer torture.
However, to put a positive spin on a seemingly dire situation, taking a step back from it all has brought quite the revelation. Something I’ve learnt to accept is that any time, whether resting or exercising, is productive. The fact that the progress is not blindingly visible can lead us to believe that recuperation is a waste of time. Both, ultimately, take you closer to your goals. Whilst we are all aware of the benefits of exercise, it is during rest and recuperation that new cells are grown and we become stronger. Despite what we’d like to think, we are not invincible and we cannot keep going forever.
Relaxing is a concept I’m not very familiar with. I’m the kind of person who needs to be constantly doing something. Whether it be stretching during movie nights or walking up and down the stairs whilst brushing my teeth, just to up the elevation gain on my Garmin, I never really switch off. I guess society makes it very hard these days as well. We live in a world where infinite information bombards us, and can be accessed at a swipe and a tap. Phones giving us constant notifications and torrents of information as technology’s latest innovations lure us into addictive behaviours. Switching off – quite literally – is exceedingly challenging. But taking a step back from the busyness of life, once in a while, may just spark the lightbulb moment you await.
A strange concept amongst runners is recovery runs – slotted in-between harder routes, these are usually shorter distances run at a more chilled pace. “Isn’t every run a workout?” “Shouldn’t every run challenge you?” The idea of scheduling in so-called ‘recovery runs’ may seem quite frankly bizarre to some, and I hear you cry. To the brain, every run is positive, and during every run you must push hard to return home bragging about your speedy time, a new PB for instance. They run races on Sports Day, don’t they? And aren’t you meant to run fast? For most runs, yes, however pushing through the pain barrier on every single run will surely scrap you of every last ounce of energy. Your body needs catch-up time, time for muscles to recover before the next spurt of activity. This isn’t solely compatible to runners; it applies to all sports. Call yourself an athlete or not, in order to perform at your body’s peak, you need your rest time.
I think we could all do with taking a leaf from the babies’ book. What are they doing the majority of the time? Sleeping: the ultimate form of recovery, it’s when they do all their growing. I wrote a post explaining everything that happens in the body whilst we are asleep, which you can read via the link at the end of this post. To sum up, during sleep your body is flushed of toxins – that means goodbye virus – and cells are repaired. Think of it like taking the car in for a service. If you’re feeling a little under the weather, definitely turn in early. I’ve been tracking my sleep lately with my Garmin watch, it gives a breakdown of deep vs light sleep, which I have found really insightful. I know they usually recommend 8 hours a night, but for me, 10 hours a night with 3-4 hours deep sleep is necessary to feel fully rested.
To summarise: rest is good, having a bit of down-time every day is very helpful, going to bed early (without your phone) could be the best thing you do for yourself all day. I’ll admit, I’m still trying to get the knack of this ‘slow living’ lark, but I know my body certainly appreciates those quiet moments of R&R.
Related Post: “Sleep: Behind The Snores.”